ATP Masters Series

Mondays With Bob Greene – Rafael Nadal Wins Monte Carlo Masters Series

STARS

Rafael Nadal won his first title of 2008 and his fourth consecutive Monte Carlo Masters, defeating Roger Federer 7-5 7-5.

Nuria Llagostera Vives won both of her singles and teamed up to capture the doubles and lead Spain over China 4-1 and into the Fed Cup World Group finals.

Vera Zvonareva beat Vania King to clinch the Fed Cup World Group semifinals victory as Russia beat the United States 3-2.

Marcelo Rios beat Michael Stich 6-3 6-3 to win the BlackRock Champions Cup in Barcelona, Spain.

SAYINGS

“Winning four times here is unimaginable.” – Rafael Nadal, who became the first player to win four straight titles at Monte Carlo since Anthony Wilding of New Zealand did it from 1911-14.

“He deserves to win. I’m pushing Rafa today, having the feeling I can beat him if I play the right way. That’s the feeling I didn’t have after (Monte Carlo) last year.” – Roger Federer after his 7-5 7-5 loss to Rafael Nadal for the Monte Carlo Masters title.

“I knew I could do it, but there were times when I wondered.” – Robert Dee, who finally won his first professional match after 54 consecutive losses.

“It was my first match on red clay in almost two years. That’s why I was a little nervous at the start of the match.” – Vera Zvonareva, who beat Vania King 4-6 6-3 6-2 to give Russia an insurmountable 3-0 lead over the United States in their Fed Cup semifinal.

“I felt really sorry. I really didn’t want to lose.” – Peng Shuai, after losing 6-4 6-4 to Nuria Llagostera Vives as Spain clinched its Fed Cup semifinal victory over China.

“We knew we could win the tie, but we never expected to win three matches in a row.” – Nuria Llagostera Vives on Spain’s Fed Cup semifinal win.

“It’s not worth it. I’m just 20 years old. Still a lot of time, a lot of tournaments to come.” – Novak Djokovic, on how he felt it was too risky to continue his semifinal match against Roger Federer because of dizziness and a sore throat.

“Physically I was tired. That’s why next week is good. I don’t play any tournament.” – Nikolay Davydenko, who is taking a week off before playing in the Rome Masters.

“It’s still enjoyable. It’s nice to play the tournaments again where I have such great memories of what’s happened in the past.” – Gustavo Kuerten, after losing in the opening round of the Monte Carlo Masters. Kuerten is on a farewell tour which will culminate at the Roland Garros.

“We should have both (Maria) Sharapova and (Svetlana) Kuznetsova in the lineup. I might even have them play doubles together.” – Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev, talking about who might play for his team at the Fed Cup finals in September against Spain.

SUPER SPANIARD

Rafael Nadal joined Jim Courier as the only players in ATP Masters Series history to win both the singles and doubles at the same event. Nadal beat Roger Federer 7-5 7-5 for the singles title, and teamed with fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo to down Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 6-3 6-3 for the doubles crown. Nadal is the first player to win both titles at Monte Carlo since Ilie Nastase in 1973. Courier won both titles in an ATP Masters Series tournament in 1991 at Indian Wells, California.

SUCCESS – FINALLY

Robert Dee walked off the tennis court a winner after 54 consecutive defeats. The Briton defeated Arzhang Derakhshani of the United states 6-4 6-3 in qualifying for a Futures tournament in Reus, near Barcelona in Spain. Dee’s 54-match losing streak was the worst since Diego Beltranena of Guatemala also lost 54 straight matches between 1997 and 2005, although Beltranena at least managed to win a set. Until his victory over Derakhshani, Dee had played 108 sets – losing them all – since turning pro.

SUCH A PAYDAY

The payout at Roland Garros this year will be more than 15.5 million euros, an increase of more than 2 percent from last year. With equal prize money again awaiting men and women, the champions will each pocket one million euros. The French Tennis Federation (FFT) said the biggest prize money increases are in the wheelchair events where the total prize money available is 60 percent higher than in 2007.

SMOKIN’ SEMIS

When Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko reached the semifinals of the Monte Carlo Masters, it marked the first time since Roland Garros in 2006 that the world’s top four ranked players were in the semifinals of the same tournament. It is the first time since the ATP Rankings began in 1973 that the top four-ranked players were semifinalists at Monte Carlo.

STOPPING THE BOMB

Frenchman Gael Monfils pulled off a unique feat in his 7-6 (8) 6-1 win over huge-serving Ivo Karlovic at the Monte Carlo Masters. Monfils didn’t concede a single ace against the 6-foot-10 Croatian. It was the first time in his career that Karlovic had failed to serve at least one ace in the match.

SITE SENSATIONAL

A record number of visitors checked out the Davis Cup web site as the nations played quarterfinals on April 11-13. The official site of the event, www.daviscup.com, recorded 4,568,701 page views, a 35 percent increase on the quarterfinals weekend in 2007. The total number of visitor sessions also saw a 39 percent rise from the previous year.

SO LONG

Clarisa Fernandez, who upset Kim Clijsters en route to the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2002, is calling it quits because of knee injuries. The lefthander from Argentina played her first professional tournament at an ITF event in Buenos Aires in 1997. She was ranked as high as number 26 in the world before undergoing surgeries in 2004, 2005 and 2007.

SEEKING HELP

Donald Young, the youngest player ranked in the ATP Top 100, will work out at Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida. It is one of the first examples of the USTA Elite Player Development’s new collaborative approach with top coaches and private academies in a bid to develop the next generation of American champions. The USTA also announced that three top junior prospects – 12-year-old Sachia Vickery, 12-year-old of Victoria Duval and 9-year-old Alicia Black – will be working with Bollettieri.

STAYING HOME

Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish, two of America’s top three players, will skip the Beijing Olympics, opting instead for a U.S. Open tuneup event. Roddick will defend his title and Fish will join him at the ATP Washington Classic, which will be played August 9-17 opposite the Olympic men’s tennis tournament. Fish was a silver medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

SPANISH SHOCKER

Spain being in the Fed Cup final is no surprise. Peng Shuai losing three matches and Spain crushing China 4-1 in the semifinal at Beijing are shockers. Peng was the highest ranked singles player in the competition, ranked number 68 in the world. She and Sun Tian Tian are ranked ninth in the world in doubles. Instead, Nuria Llagostera Vives won three matches, teaming with Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the doubles, while Carla Suarez-Navarro, ranked number 132 in the world, beat Peng in straight sets.

SHARAPOVA READY

Russia will have Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova for its Fed Cup final against Spain in September. Sharapova made her Fed Cup debut against Israel in February and won both of her singles matches to lead Russia to a 4-1 quarterfinal victory. Svetlana Kuznetsova led Russia to a 3-2 win over the United States in semifinal play. Against Spain, Russia could field both Sharapova and Kuznetsova, who are ranked third and fourth in world, respectively.

SPONSOR

BoscoSport, a Russian sporting goods company, is the new official clothing sponsor of Fed Cup. It will outfit the linespeople and ball kids at all Fed Cup ties. BoscoSport has been the official Russian Olympic team outfitter since the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games and is also the outfitter of the Russian Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams.

SCRIBE

Bud Collins has written a new book about tennis. The writer, historian and Tennis Hall of Fame member has written The Bud Collins History of Tennis, which is due in bookstores later this spring in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, and is available now with internet retailers. Collins’ achievements include being the recipient of the ATP’s 2007 Ron Bookman Media Excellence Award.

SHARED PERFORMANCE

Doubles Champions

Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 6-3 6-3.

SCORING FED CUP

World Group Playoffs

Italy beat Ukraine 3-2; France beat Japan 4-1; Argentina beat Germany 3-2; Czech Republic beat Israel 3-2

World Group II Playoffs

Belgium beat Colombia 5-0; Switzerland beat Austria 3-2; Slovak Republic beat Uzbekistan 5-0; Serbia beat Croatia 3-2

SITES TO SURF

Barcelona: www.opensabadellatlantico.com

Munich: www.bmwopen.de

Fes: www.frmt.ma/

Prague: www.pragueopen.cz

Rome: www.internazionalibnlditalia.it

Berlin: www.german-open.org

Boston: www.championsseriestennis.com/boston2008

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP

$824,000 Open Sabadell Atlantico 2008, Barcelona, Spain, clay

$370,000 BMW Open, Munich, Germany, clay

WTA TOUR

$145,000 Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem, Fes, Morocco, clay

$145,000 ECM Prague Open, Prague, Czech Republic, clay

SENIORS

$150,000 Outback Champions Cup Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,270,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Qatar Telecom German Open, Berlin, Germany, clay

SENIORS

BlackRock Tour of Champions Rome, clay

Show Me The Money

I like Rafael Nadal. I really do. But on this one very rare instance, I have to side with the ATP over the young Spaniard.

When asked in Miami whether he was comfortable playing in the United States for two consecutive Masters Series events, Nadal said, “I’m very comfortable in United States, but not for this time. It’s not fair have one month, two tournaments, and after go back to Europe and we have to play three Masters Series on clay.”

What especially irked Nadal was that the schedule was changed to accommodate an American TV network. Since television coverage of the NCAA college basketball tournament would have interfered with broadcasting from the Sony Ericsson Open, Miami was pushed back a week. Consequently, the European clay season was shortened by a week, and the three Masters Series events there have to be played over a four week rather than a five week period.

“Everybody can say about the Olympics. Is not for the Olympics,” Nadal explained. “This year we have that. It’s because these two tournaments are one week later, because you have university or something like this, college basketball. I respect 100% the college basketball. I think it’s very important. I know here it’s very important, the college basketball, because I saw always the American players and the mens in the locker room watching always this. But, well, we can’t have the calendar thinking about the college basketball, no? So we are 100% disappointed about this decision of the ATP.”

Nadal then repeated his statements last week during Davis Cup as reported by Reuters: “The truth is the ATP is making our lives almost impossible. Moving Miami and Indian Wells back because of college basketball is something I understand because it’s very important to them but this is a world tour. We only have three Masters Series events and we have to play them with an important tournament like Barcelona all running together.”

At first glance, Nadal seems to have a legitimate argument. The ATP appears to have put monetary concerns over the welfare of their players, and Nadal and the rest of the players should have a say on the schedule and have every right to use the media to express their concerns and vent their frustrations. Even with the proposed changes for 2009, the schedule is a mess, and the ATP seems determined to lessen the importance of clay as a surface. And forcing the players to play three major tournaments in four weeks does border on insanity.

His frustration over the schedule being changed due to March Madness is also understandable. Should one major sport change their schedule to accommodate television coverage of another major sport? Many Americans can relate to Nadal’s frustrations because they are also tired of having the major TV networks dictate the dates and times of sporting events.

But the reality is that given the position of tennis on the sports popularity ladder in many countries including the U.S., the ATP unfortunately did have to create a calendar that took college basketball into consideration.

Sports are a business. Ticket revenues don’t pay for the costs to run a tournament, including those big fat paychecks that the players get at the end of the tournament. It’s the revenue from television rights fees and the sponsors that pay the bills. And sponsors want their corporate names and logos placed strategically on court so that they are visible on television.

CBS broadcasts the NCAA college basketball tournament, an extraordinarily popular event in the U.S. Tennis is not. CBS is also a business. Their revenues are based on ratings, and decisions made are based on that fact. If Miami had kept their original dates, the men’s final would have conflicted with basketball coverage, and the result would most likely have been no television coverage of the men’s final on a major network.

Tennis must be on TV, especially from such a large tournament as the Sony Ericsson Open. It’s not just merely to be visible to grow the game-it’s a matter of survival to be on TV in today’s sports climate. Tennis in the U.S.-and in many other parts of the world-is fighting for a place in a very crowded sports scene, and the ATP is very aware of that fact.

Nadal obviously has to think about his own career, but the ATP has to make decisions based on what is best for the sport in the host country of this very major tournament, not for what is best for one player or merely the very top players in the game. And note that it is only the top players who complain about the schedule. The guys out of the top 50 have to play every week anyway.

What is odd about Nadal’s comments is that he knew at the beginning of the season that Miami would be moved back and that the clay season would be shortened. If he was so concerned about being tired, why then did he fly all the way to Dubai before Indian Wells? You guessed it: $$$$.

In one way, you can’t blame players like Nadal for taking the money thrown at them by the Dubai tournament organizers. But then one may humbly suggest that these same players not complain that the ATP is making decisions solely for monetary reasons without any concern for the players, and of being tired and being forced to play too many tournaments when they are doing exactly the same thing.

This isn’t the first time a top player has complained about the schedule while at the same time flying to distant lands to compete in tournaments or participate in exhibitions that benefit their wallets.

Nadal’s complaints about the college basketball tournament also seem like a smoke screen. The top European players complain every year about having to spend 4-5 weeks in the U.S. for Indian Wells and Miami, and then again in the summer about having to spend August in America. In their own turn, the American players refuse to cross the pond to spend their entire spring on the clay in Europe and are often no-shows for many of the fall European indoor hardcourt events.

It’s a bit difficult to sympathize with either side: players from other parts of the world, including Latin America, Australia, and Asia, spend months on the road without being able to return home.

Players including Nadal also need to realize that when they complain, the average fan only sees an overpaid athlete who doesn’t appreciate their dream life.

These fans would trade places with the players in a heartbeat. Instead of sitting in a cubicle in an office, forced to listen to an irritating boss, and worrying about the mortgage payments, they could travel around the world and get paid enormous sums of money to chase down a fuzzy yellow ball. And play in cities like London, Paris, Rome, and yes, Miami, places that many fans can’t afford to travel to in a lifetime, let alone all in one year, even in the best of economic times.

Again, I like Nadal. It would be hard not to like the young Spaniard. A likable guy and a true warrior, he’s a player who never lets his fans down. Nadal fights for every point, never conceding defeat, even when down. The game’s own Raging Bull is one of the few top players who reveals his emotions on court, inviting the spectators to share the intense moments of a match along with him.

Everywhere he goes, fans clamor to get his autograph or picture, and far more often than not, he willingly complies. He’s a well brought up kid, polite and unassuming. Normally all business on court, he demonstrates an on court maturity far beyond his age.

Tennis players tend to live in an insular world, a bubble like existence since players are out there on their own, fighting to survive themselves in the game. So someone in Nadal’s entourage should explain the facts of life to him. No, not those facts of life. The business facts of life, particularly the importance of television to tennis.

Mondays With Bob Greene

24 March 2008

STARS

Ana Ivanovic - Indian WellsNovak Djokovic stopped giant-killer Mardy Fish to win the Pacific Life Open men’s singles 6-2 5-7 6-3 in Indian Wells, California

Ana Ivanovic won her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title of the year, the Pacific Life Open, and sixth of her career by defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4 6-3.

STUNNER

Mardy Fish joined a growing list of players who can claim an upset victory over Roger Federer when the American beat the world’s No. 1 player in the semifinals of the Pacific Life Open. It wasn’t even close as Fish crushed his Swiss opponent 6-3 6-2.

SLIPPING

Roger Federer, who has won eight of the last eleven Grand Slam tournaments, has yet to win a title of any kind in 2008. Federer’s hold on the world No. 1 ranking became even more tenuous after he fell to American Mardy Fish in the semifinals of the Pacific Life Open. So far in 2008, Federer has lost three times, to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinals, to Andy Murray in the opening round at Dubai, and to Fish in Indian Wells.

SAYINGS

“There is something in this desert air which keeps me going year after year. I’m doing pretty good here.” – Novak Djokovic after winning the Pacific Life Open men’s crown with a 6-2 5-7 6-3 win over Mardy Fish.

“It’s always painful to lose, but I prefer losing in the final to losing in the second round.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after losing to Ana Ivanovic in the women’s title match of the Pacific Life Open.

“He would never miss, really, when I needed a miss once in a while.” – Roger Federer after his 6-3-6-2 semifinal loss to Mardy Fish at the Pacific Life Open.

“This obviously wasn’t Roger’s best day.” – Mardy Fish after upsetting top-ranked Roger Federer.

“The truth is he played better than me today. It’s difficult to say more things.” – Rafael Nadal after losing to Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-2 in the Pacific Life Open semifinals.

“I think we both played good tennis from the first point on, and I was really happy with that.” – Ana Ivanovic after beating Svetlana Kuznetsova to win the Pacific Life Open women’s singles.


SWINGING TOGETHER

Dinara Safina teamed up with fellow Russian Elena Vesnina to win their first women’s doubles title, defeating the third-seeded Chinese team of Yan Zi and Zheng Jie 6-1 1-6 10-8 (Match Tiebreak) at the Pacific Life Open.

Israelis Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram won the Pacific Life Open men’s doubles crown. They beat Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4.

SUPER SWAT

Not only did Svetlana Kuznetsova hand Maria Sharapova her first loss of 2008, she may have had a hand in knocking the Australian Open champion out of her next tournament. After losing to Kuznetsova 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 at Indian Wells, Sharapova pulled out of next week’s Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, citing a shoulder injury.

SLAMMING

WTA head Larry Scott was quick to defend two of the sport’s greatest champions after Richard Williams took a verbal swipe at them. “Champions like Chris Evert and Tracy Austin have done so much to help build women’s tennis to where it is today, and it is regrettable that anyone would criticize them in this manner,” Scott said. His response came after Williams, Venus and Serena’s father, charged that Evert and Austin, both enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, were boosted by the media even though they “cannot hit the ball.”

STUMBLING SVETLANA

Svetlana Kuznetsova has problems on the final day. Ranked fourth in world, the Russian has reached three singles finals this year, and has lost them all. She has now lost eight of the last nine tournament finals she has played.

STRUGGLING MOM

The back injury that caused her to pull out of the Pacific Life Open has been even more troublesome for Lindsay Davenport at home. The problem has prevented the new mother from carrying her baby. “I haven’t been able to lift him out of his crib, out of the stroller or out of the car seat, so I’ve feel like kind of a bad mom in that regard,” Davenport said.

SELES BY SELES

Monica Seles is writing her memoirs. Seles was the No. 1 player in the world when a man climbed out of the stands in Hamburg, Germany, during a match in 1993 and stabbed her in the back. She was off the tour for more than two years before coming back to win the Australian Open in 1996.

STILL SWATTING

John McEnroe will play World Team Tennis for the eighth season this year when he competes in three road matches for the New York Sportimes. McEnroe will visit the Philadelphia Freedoms on July 14, the Washington Kastles on July 15 and the Newport Beach Breakers on July 22. Others scheduled to play World Team Tennis this season include Lindsay Davenport, Serena and Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, Martina Navratilova, Anna Kournikova and the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike.

SITES TO SURF

Miami: http://www.sonyericssonopen.com
Men’s tour: http://www.atptour.com
Women’s tour: http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com
Fox TV: http://msn.foxsports.com/tv/schedule

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP and WTA Tours

$3,770,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Key Biscayne, Florida, hard court

Daily Roundup, Sunday: Djokovic takes Pacific Life Open

In Sunday’s Pacific Life Open final, #3 Novak Djokovic took on unseeded Cinderella story Mardy Fish. Fish started out a bit sluggish and perhaps nervous. Djokovic won the first six points of the game and got out to a 3-0 start before Fish started finding his range. He drew it back on serve to 3-2, but then lost the nNovak Djokovic wins Indian Wellsext three games to drop the set 6-2. Djokovic went up 4-2 in the second set and looked like he would be well on his way to easy victory but Fish was able to break back to level the set at 4all. They continued on serve, until seemingly out of nowhere, Fish managed to sneak out a break at 5all before serving out the set 7-5 to take it to a decider.

At the start of the third set it looked like Fish was going to keep it up as he quickly got a 0-40 lead on Djokovic’s service game. But Djokovic saved the three break points with three aces and squashed Fish’s early hopes. Djokovic would break in the next game and take a 3-0 lead. Fish would have no more real chances to get the break back and the two men held until Djokovic served out the set and the match 6-3. For Fish, his sluggish movement and untimely unforced errors (44 to only 29 winners), in addition to his low first serve percentage (40% for the match but only 33% in the third set), proved to be fatal. For Djokovic, he was steadier with the same 29 winners, but only 33 unforced errors.

And so, Djokovic’s fairytale and nearly perfect start to the 2008 season continues with his second title and third ATP Masters Series title overall. He puts a further dent into the points difference between he and Nadal, and, like Erlich and Ram in the doubles, has taken both of the required events that have been played this season thus far. For Fish, he will rise from the brink of falling out of the top 100 to #40 and will be the #3 ranked American once again. Hopefully he will be able to stay healthy – something he has had trouble doing – and keep this form up as he has very few points to defend until the summer.

In their speeches on court after the match, Fish thanked the crowd for getting him through several of his matches this week and proclaimed it is one of his favorite tournaments on the tour. Djokovic gave credit to Fish for his outstanding run and said he should be ranked higher than his current ranking.

Destination: Miami

Thinking of attending an ATP tennis tournament? TennisGrandstand begins a new series that reviews pro tournaments from a fan’s perspective.

All tournaments are bound to be a great experience. After all, fans lucky enough to attend a professional tennis event are watching the world’s best tennis players compete in one of sports greatest games! So it’s the intangible that determine whether a tournament is either a “great” or merely a “good” event.

In reviewing a tournament, we take into consideration the general atmosphere of the tournament, the ease of getting into courts, the ability to watch practice sessions, food, prices, hotels and transportation, and entertainment outside the tournament grounds.

Our first destination is also known as tennis’ fifth Grand Slam: the ATP’s Masters Series event in Miami.

General Atmosphere:
The tournament is played in Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, Florida, just south of Miami. The grounds of Crandon Park provide one of the most striking event backdrops in North America, offering an excellent compliment to the exciting tennis fans witness on court.

The Hispanic fans from the Miami area and the South Americans who fly in for the tournament give the Sony Ericsson Open a decidedly latino flair. That influence transfers over to the players. Although Miami is a hardcourt event, the clay court players from South America and Spain have a large, vocal following and are often scheduled on some of the best courts for both play and practice.

Courts:
Unlike the enormous Arthur Ashe stadium at the US Open, fans can still see the ball even when perched high on top of the main stadium in Crandon Park. But the Grandstand is the best place to view action. The second largest court on the tournament grounds is easy to get in and out of, and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

The same can’t be said of the other main courts. Courts 1 and 2 are far too small for such a large tournament. Fans must often wait in long lines that stretch out from the court entrances. Once a fan is finally able to get a seta, they can’t chance leaving for even a brief restroom break because the long process of getting into the court will begin again.

Practice Sessions:
Watching your favorites practice is rarely a problem in Miami. With only one exception, fans can sit or stand court side on all the practice courts at the event, offering a great opportunity to take pictures and video.

If you are determined to see a particular player, we recommend wearing sneakers. The practice sessions times are not posted and the grounds are large, so you may have to take numerous turn around Crandon Park to find the players you are looking for.

Food:
The Sony Ericsson Open offers fans a variety of culinary treats to choose from, ranging from pasta and seafood to pizza and ice cream. Especially delightful is the strawberries with Nutella and whipped crème wrapped in French crepes.

Prices:
Overall the ticket prices into the event are average for a tennis tournament. And in comparison to the US Open, it’s downright inexpensive.

Remember that once you get a ticket with an assigned seat for the stadium, you can sit anywhere in the Grandstand or outer courts.

Food prices in the grounds are also average for a tournament. For the amount and quality of the food, the prices are reasonable for a professional sports event in the United States.

Hotel:
If you are coming from outside the Miami area, the tournament offers a number of hotel packages with a good choice of price ranges.

Many fans who come from other parts of the world take advantage of the hotel shuttle service due to the heavy traffic in Miami. If letting someone else deal with the driving appeals to you, make sure that the hotel you choose offers shuttle service.

Check the Sony Ericsson Open official web site for more information on hotels and shuttle service. http://www.sonyericssonopen.com/

Entertainment Outside The Grounds:
It’s Miami: sun, beaches, a large variety of terrific restaurants, and South Beach nightlife. Does anything more need to be said?

Helpful Hints:
Helpful Hint # 1 – The Masters Series tournament is a combined men’s and women’s event. That’s good news for some, bad news for other fans. We leave that up to you to decide.

Helpful Hint # 2 – March in sunny Florida is hot so make sure to pack your sunscreen. (There are some exceptions: a couple of years ago in Miami, there was very cool temperatures two nights during the tournament. Fans had to pull out their sweatshirts and jackets, and line up at the on-site Starbucks for hot coffee.) The Miami area can also experience heavy rain during the day so it’s a good idea to bring along an umbrella or rain cape as well.

(This column has been published before by Lynn Mennillo)

Ask Bill – Bill Mountford

There was speculation that some unseeded entrants in last week’s ATP event in Dubai received appearance fees in excess of US $1 million. Considering that eight of the world’s top ten played the tournament, the total purse (combining appearance fees and prize money) was likely greater than any of the ATP Masters Series events.

The worst example of why things are out of whack between Dubai and the rest of the tour occurred two years ago. In Andre Agassi’s final season, while he was looking to minimize travel, he opted to fly half-way around the world to Dubai in lieu of playing the Tennis Channel Open in his hometown of Las Vegas. Of course he was offered an appearance fee that even he could not refuse. By the way, in 2007 Agassi purchased tickets to attend matches at the Darling Tennis Center. That act showed a lot about Agassi’s character, or it was his penance. Regardless, there are not too many people “in” tennis who opt to pay for tickets when all-access credentials are readily available.

Congratulations to Sam Querrey, who won his first ATP title in Las Vegas. Too young to legally enjoy a celebratory beer, Querrey looks like a sure-fire future Davis Cupper. Forecasting future champions is always risky business, and Sam Querrey is a prime example. The first international junior tournament that he played was at the 2004 US Open (where he extended that year’s champion, Andy Murray, to three sets in the quarterfinals). The Californian was only able to enter this event as a wildcard, based on his winning the Boys’ 16 and under Nationals in Kalamazoo, MI (as a third-year 16s, by the way). He was hardly on the experts’ radar screen at that time, but rather just another good American junior who appeared primed for college tennis.

In Andy Murray’s second round match in Dubai, he let fly several clearly audible obscenities. I have a soft spot for Andy, because he is my son’s favorite player and I love his competitive spirit. But it appears that the point penalty system, which was put in place a few decades ago to essentially reign in John McEnroe, has been relaxed considerably. If these same rules existed back in 1990, then Johnny Mac would have won his eighth major at that year’s Australian Open instead of being unceremoniously defaulted.

The week following Andy Roddick’s victory in San Jose, Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated criticized the popular American for some unseemly, and certainly unsportsmanlike, behavior. There was a marked improvement in the way Roddick carried himself in Dubai. I suspect that a member of the Roddick team – and perhaps Andy himself – read this SI.com article. I feel Wertheim is comfortably growing into the position that the late, great Gene Scott once held: the conscience of tennis. There was nothing unfair about the opinions he shared. It was nice to see Andy enjoy his best victory in a few years, and behave honorably. In fact, commentator David Mercer referred to his semifinal win over Novak Djokovic to be “the highest quality in sport and sportsmanship.”

I watched 50,000 Balls, an interesting documentary about the lives of four top-ranking 12 and under American players from the summer of 2006. In Hoop Dreams fashion, it will be fascinating to see the sequel 500,000 Balls when these boys reach the 18s! Hopefully, a prominent Film Festival will show the project.

Serena Williams edged ahead of big sister Venus in their career head-to-head record (8-7) with a third set tiebreak win in the semifinals of Bangalore, India on her way to her 29th career title. This match could have been a preview of the 2008 Olympic Games gold medal match for women’s singles.

Congratulations to Wayne Bryan for being named the 2008 Professional Tennis Registry’s Professional of the Year. Wayne reminds me of the Grateful Dead. As was frequently said about this legendary band, Wayne is not only the best in the world at what he does, he is the only one in the world who does what he does. Every coach, and every parent for that matter, ought to have a copy of his book The Formula: Raising Your Child to be a Champion in Athletics, Arts, and Academics.

Joel Drucker wrote a nice piece on Wayne’s boys, Bob and Mike Bryan, who continue battling to make professional doubles relevant. The Brothers are relentlessly nice young men, and a credit to the tennis profession.

Monica Seles has announced her retirement, and she is a shoo-in for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. A player must be inactive on the main tour for five years to be eligible for induction. Well, Seles’s last professional match was played in 2003 during Roland Garros. While the class of 2008 has already been announced, her retirement announcement gives our sport the opportunity to do right by one of the greatest champions of all-time by fast-tracking her induction.

The buzz that the Federer-Sampras exhibition created was wonderful for our sport. “Cheap” tickets were scalped for over $1,000. George Vecsey of the New York Times wrote a wistful article previewing this match and Harvey Araton, also from the NY Times, wrote an interesting post-match commentary. In previous eras, these cross-generational challenge matches were common. Bill Tilden played Ellsworth Vines, Vines played Don Budge, Budge played Bobby Riggs, Riggs played Jack Kramer, Kramer played Pancho Gonzalez, Gonzalez played Rod Laver, Laver played Jimmy Connors, etc. Before tennis went “open” in 1968, the only (and the best) way champions had to earn money was through playing in exhibitions against previous champions.

Getting psyched up to play against Roger Federer in a sold out Madison Square Garden is more manageable for the 36-year-old Sampras then the prospect of grinding out Tour matches (or even of having to win seven matches in 13 days at Wimbledon). It is times like this when I really miss the New York sports talk radio stations!

Roger Federer’s less than gracious post-match comments about Andy Murray were likely taken out of context, but his follow up comments that Murray is more talented than Novak Djokovic seemed really out of character. Rafael Nadal disturbs Federer, and John Yandell wrote fascinating articles about this topic on www.TennisPlayer.net, but Djokovic apparently really gets under Federer’s skin. Last week, the Serb opined that he expected Murray to win and that Federer is essentially losing his aura of invincibility. Hmmm…

The announcement that Roger Federer was sick with mononucleosis must have surprised Pete Sampras, who holds Federer in the highest regard. Pistol Pete won his seventh Wimbledon title on a broken foot and his fifth US Open title with stomach ulcers. Sampras has always talked about how he admires the way Federer carries himself, and these champions obviously share unique experiences. Here’s hoping that they grab a beer together and discuss the time-honored Aussie code that both men respect: If you’re fit, then you take the court; if you take the court, then it means you’re fit.

There was a great trivia question a few years ago: Who was the last man to win a tour-level event while using a wood racquet? Hint: he was the only player to beat Mats Wilander in a major back in 1988. Well, here is a modern era trivia question: Who was the last man to win a tour-level title WITHOUT using polyester strings? Polyester strings have had as great an impact on the way tennis is played professionally as larger head-size, graphite racquets had 25 years ago.

I am looking forward to watching the Indian Wells coverage on EuroSport next week. Please feel welcome to send questions, comments, criticisms, requests, and jokes each week.